NOTE: One of the most frequent questions I get is about what causes a low level of self-confidence and what can be done to improve it.  To answer those questions I’ve posted an updated version of a post from early last year on this topic.

Most of us would like to improve our level of confidence.

But why?

  • What is confidence anyway?
  • Where does it come from?  Why do some people have more of it than others?
  • How can we improve our level of confidence?
  • How does a low level of confidence affect us and what changes in our lives when we gain confidence?

As someone who has helped literally thousands of people build more confidence, I think I am qualified to answer these questions.  (By the way, I had very little self-confidence for most of my life but now I consistently experience a high level of confidence.)

What is confidence?

Confidence actually exists on a continuum, ranging from a sense of victimization to a sense that we can handle whatever life throws at us.  Some people are almost totally lacking in confidence and some feel confident that they can handle almost anything; most people are in-between.  So the issue for most people is where they currently are on the continuum and how they can raise their level of confidence.

It is important to distinguish between confidence about being able to perform a specific task (such as fly a plane or speak a foreign language) and confidence in yourself. One might not be confident about being able to perform a specific task even though one has high level of self-confidence.  Such a person knows that her inability to perform a specific task means nothing about her as a person.

Confidence is ultimately a function of the self-esteem beliefs we hold.  For example, someone who believes I’m not good enough, I’m not capable, I’m powerless, I’m not worthy or deserving, etc. will likely have a low level of self-confidence.  On the other hand, someone with the beliefs I am good enough, I am capable, I impact my reality, I’m worthy and deserving, etc. will likely have a high level of self-confidence.

In other words, your confidence in yourself as a person is the result of having positive beliefs about yourself.

How to improve your level of confidence

The way to gain confidence about specific abilities is to learn those skills and practice a lot.  The way to improve our internal level of confidence that we apply to life in general is to eliminate our limiting beliefs.  Every negative self-esteem-type belief we have lowers our internal level of self-confidence; every one we eliminate raises our internal level of self-confidence.

Once you understand that negative self-esteem beliefs lower your level of self-confidence and getting rid of them raises it, you will realize that the commonly-held notion that self-confidence comes from succeeding or failing at specific projects in life is a serious misunderstanding.

Even if you usually succeed at tasks as a kid, but your parents constantly tell you that you should have done better, you are likely to conclude, Nothing I do is good enough and other similar beliefs, which will lower your self-confidence.  On the other hand, if you don’t succeed at tasks a lot of the time as a kid and your parents say things like: “That’s okay, no one gets it right the first time.  If you keep practicing you will get better and better”—you are likely to conclude: If I keep trying I can do anything. That belief would raise your level of self-confidence.  In other words, your level of self-confidence is a function of your beliefs—the meaning you give your results—not your actual results.

And if you create a bunch of positive self-esteem beliefs early in life, failures later on probably will be experienced as learning experiences or temporary set backs that have nothing to do with who you are as a person.

Some of the consequences of low self-confidenc

A low level of self-confidence can result in a host of other emotional problems, such as worrying about the opinions of others (we don’t have confidence in our own opinion), a critical “little voice” in our head that constantly criticizes almost anything we do (because nothing we do is really good enough), and stress (because we are constantly worried that what we are doing is just not good enough and we will fail.)

Low self-confidence also can result in self-defeating behavior.  It can keep you from ever getting started.  Or it can have you quit at the first sign of a problem.  Or it can lead you to sabotage yourself when you get close to success because you feel you don’t really deserve to get what you want.  Or if somehow you manage to get some of what you want, a low level of self-confidence will keep you from truly enjoying your success.  The best illustration of this latter point is a study of large company CEOs done many years ago in which most of them admitted they were terrified that they would be “found out” and that everything they had achieved would be taken away from them.  This fear is so common that it has been given a name: “The Imposter Syndrome.

How building confidence improves your life

Some of the benefits of increased self-confidence include: You’ll take more chances. You’ll stop procrastinating.  You’ll do whatever you need to do to move your vision forward.  You’ll finally start things you’ve always wanted to do and never got around to doing. It will make social activity easier.  Talking to people and meeting new people will become easier and effortless.   Failure and mistakes will no longer be dreaded. And you’ll do what you want without worrying about what others will think

Do you still have any questions about confidence?  Is the difference clear between a lack of self-confidence and the inability to perform a specific task?  Please leave your comments and questions below

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If you haven’t yet eliminated at least one of your limiting self-esteem beliefs using the Lefkoe Belief Process, go to htp:// where you can eliminate one negative belief free.

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copyright ©2010-11 Morty Lefkoe